from My Struggle, Book 2 by Karl Ove Knausgaard


I wanted to have some peace. I wanted to write. P 408


I’ve been home for the past few days recovering from having my wisdom teeth removed. While it hasn’t been exactly pleasant, it has made me feel as if I’m back from my first year at college. I think it might be shock to the system when the beginning of September arrives and I’m not the one packing for the dorms.

As with most recoveries, there has been a silver lining. There have been smoothies, milkshakes, soup and eggs; everything designed to be chewed less and to go down easy. I’ve been reading, having made a pile of books– several piles– so that whatever struck my fancy would be at my fingertips. At first I thought I would revisit Narnia, then maybe Harry Potter, from there I contemplated reading the Anne of Green Gables series again and even started the first story sitting in the surgeon’s waiting room trying desperately not to think about the surgery itself. But as I started reacquainting myself with Anne, I realized what I wanted was to read the Emily stories for the first time. In a testament to the true magic in this world, a friend had sent me Emily of New Moon as a get well present and it was waiting for me when I got home. As soon as the anaesthesia wore off, I opened the cover and dove into that world.

What I love about Emily is that she wants to be a writer. After her aunt tries to make her read aloud from her yellow journal, Emily incinerates all of her work, figuring a fiery end would be a more fitting fate for her words. Her desire to write is at times all consuming. When she realizes her aunt won’t allow her the frivolous pen and paper she desires, fortune smiles upon her and she finds a pile of old bills being thrown away. She makes use of every available square inch of blank paper. Reading Emily’s story is like finding the diary of the long-lost great grandmother I often wished I had met.

I’m not good at sitting still, not even when it’s under doctors orders. But if I must follow this mandate, then I want to bury myself in a good book, to get lost in someone else’s words. I adore great big doorstop books or series that seem neverending– stretching out to there and back again. To that end I’ve almost finished the second book in Knausgaard’s six book–3600 page– series. Written in a memoir style, but published as fiction, he writes of the details of his life. He recounts his life as a child growing up in Norway, as well as his life as a writer in Sweden. There are banal, everyday moments stacked upon each other that transform into instances of clarity and lyrical, thought-provoking prose:

If we saw a good film it stirred us and set things in motion, for that is how it is, the world is always the same, it is the way that we view it that changes. P 369

These words spoke to me and were in my mind as I watched Boyhood on Tuesday night. Richard Linklater has brought the world a project as equally massive as Karl Ove’s. It is a labor of love that took him 12 years of filming. Seeing it all on the big screen I took it all in, the way 7 year old Mason over the course of three hours morphed into the boy heading off for college. I cheered when he went to the Harry Potter midnight party, laughed they called Twilight cheesy and felt a kinship when he discovered photography. All of these tiny little bits, the everyday minutiae somehow created the mosaic of this boy’s childhood, for better or for worse. Leaving the theater I felt as if I had been a part of something larger then myself and just as Knausgaard described it, my view of the world in front of me had indeed changed.

I have also discovered that recovery is a sedentary art. As much as I’ve been reading, I’ve been sitting in front of the TV watching and rewatching favorites. I started with Stuck in Love, (with Wonder Boys and Garp waiting in the wings) Stuck centers around a family of writers, the father is a novelist struggling to publish again after his first bestselling efforts. As his daughter is being lauded for her first book release, her dad wishes her well with an impromptu speech and ends by quoting Raymond Carver from What We Talk About When We Talk About Love

I could hear my heart beating. I could hear everyone’s heart. I could hear the human noise we sat there making. Not one of us was moving, even when the room went dark.

I wish I had these types of lines close to me, ones I had memorized to pull out when the occasions arose. Words that had become part of my very fiber and entwined with my heart. But listening to that quote makes me remember my own Carver lines, these bits from Happiness often come rising unbidden to the surface of my memory:

They are so happy/they aren’t saying anything, these boys./I think if they could, they would take each other’s arm. Happiness. It comes on/ unexpectedly. And goes beyond, really,/any early morning talk about it.

Maybe more than wanting to quote someone else’s lines, what I really want to do is just create my own lines of beauty. A special arrangement of words that shine all their own. Maybe these days of rest and quiet are a gift. Now feels like the time to begin.

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